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History of Bags and Horns

How we started making Shooting Bags and Powder Horns

In July, 1977, the first October Country hunting bag was made. It was the 01-401 Freestyle. Over the next seven years, six other pouches were designed and made, plus a unique styled powderhorn complimented by a matching priming horn. In January, 1984, the original business was sold and moved to North Idaho. As transported to North Idaho in a Ford van, the business consisted of one box of raw cow horns, six sides of leather, an anvil and a hammer, several wooden bag patterns, a wooden box with misc. spools of thread, and one order for six bags, plus two sewing machines. Today we are still using those Juki sewing machines, the box and anvil and the hammer. We cut our bag parts with a hydraulic die cutting press, every bag part has its corresponding steel die, and there are four additional sewing machines. We are bursting at the seams in a 2,500 square foot building, plus outside shops.

Since January, 1984, one bag design has been dropped and twelve designs have been added. Several of the original designs have been modified and improved. All of our pouches are our own original designs. The glaring exception to that statement is the 01-454 St. Louis Bag. It was copied from an original pouch of the 1840's. Some draw upon each other for design components while others are totally unique to themselves.

Starting October 17, 2005, John Maciosek became the new owner!

Time Period of Bags

1750-1800 One of the more frequent questions we hear is regarding the associated time period of each pouch. We do not see any pouch we have dating back prior to 1750. I believe our 01-456 Longhunter Bag, the 01-458 Frontiersman's Cross Bag and the 01-404FH Coeur d'Alene Bag would be appropriate for the period 1750-1800. Also, the 01-455 Canadian Bag is a good 18th century selection. Incidentally, did you know that Wes Studi wore that shooting bag in the 1991 release of The Last of the Mohicans?

1800-1860 For the period 1800 - 1860, I believe the rest of the possible bags we offer would be appropriate. For the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Era, I really believe the 01-459 Freetrapper fits the bill. It's a smallish, medium sized bag with no frills. It has a full "D" flap which many people have customized into half flaps, beavertails, button down flaps, etc. Your imagination can run wild, or you can leave well enough alone. Interestingly enough, when we introduced that bag in 1989, the concept was to have a bag that would compete dollar for dollar with the Thompson Center and the Uncle Mike's Shooting Bags. Except... it would be of better quality and better looking. Year after year, this has been our best selling bag and strangely enough, neither T/C nor Uncle Mikes sell bags any longer.

Favorite Bags

Although I really like all the different bags we make, three of them really stand out and capture my attention. One is the 01-404FH, Coeur d'Alene Bag. This is, undoubtedly, the largest, most complex pouch we make. With the two filigrees and the weeping heart piercing, and the scalloped edge trim, it certainly shows off the skill of our seamstresses. The bag is designed for organization with the divider and the internal pockets. It is beautiful and functional and it appears custom made, but at only a fraction of the price.

Hunting Bag

The next bag that stirs me is the 01-469 English Hunting Pouch. The first year I hunted with our Great American Sporting Rifle, I knew I wanted a distinctive bag to go with it, yet in keeping with the concept of a hunting pouch, it needed to be simple yet functional and versatile. It can be worn either left side, right side, or as a belt bag. The shoulder strap is buckle adjustable and connects to the pouch with two brass rings so it lays flat against the hunter's side. The strap also has a double pocket sewn on to carry up to a 200-grain powder measure and a straight-line capper, either for #11's or musket caps. Inside the pouch, there is an internal divider with three loops to carry speed loaders. And a generous sized main compartment. There is a short starter loop on each end. The gusset is accordion pleated so the bag will close as flat as possible. Designing this pouch also caused the design of the small Easy Pour Flask, as I needed a small powder container to fit inside the bag.

Large Traveler Bag

Finally, the 01-403 Traveler Bag impresses me as our workhorse. It is a large bag, capable of carrying lots of stuff. There are as many pockets in this bag than you find in a pair of Levi's. There is an outside front pocket and a back pocket. Inside there is a hanging pocket on the back panel. On the inside of the front panel is a double pocket. If a person cannot get organized with this possible bag, they are hopeless. Several times this happened to me. I would take a Traveler and customize it to my taste and desires. Then we would go to a rendezvous and set up our display. I would have my bag and horn hanging from a tent pole and someone would see it and have to have it. Not a new one but my used one.

Care and Cleaning

Care of the October Country Shooting bags is relatively simple. Dust and dirt can be wiped off periodically with a damp cloth. Once or twice a year, it is a good idea to treat the leather with Bumblin' Bear Grease (preferred) or else any premium leather dressing. This helps cover any scratches and promotes development of the pleasing patina fine leather acquires as it ages.

Powder Horns By JR Nelson

October Country is proud to offer handcrafted powder horns by John R.
Nelson. JR made his first powder horn in 1984 and has continued to research and perfect his Powder Horns by JR Nelson art form. We must say that his work is true craftsmanship, the kind you can only get from years of experience. His horns were featured in the "Prime Possibles" section of the July/August 2002 issue of Muzzleloader Magazine where staff writer Mike Nesbitt wrote, "I've given JR credit for his good horns face-to-face before, and now it's high time he gets public credit for his craftsmanship." A letter from pleased customer Daniel V. Meier, Jr. of Huntington, MD, praised one of his horns saying, "It is such a finely crafted and well  finished object that I believe I would rather display it from the mantle of my living room than to actually put gun powder in it and use it in the field." JR's attention to detail and quality coupled with his ability to produce an infinite variety of designs will more than satisfy the owner of a Nelson Hornworks powder horn.

There is a horn for every Powder Horns by JR Nelson era of reenactment. For the long hunter, there is the French and Indian War Horn or the Fort Pitt Horn. For the trapper, there is the Mountain Man Horn or the Bridger Buffalo Horn. For the modern black powder hunter on a budget, there is the Poor Boy Horn. Choose from a variety of standard patterns. Custom one-of-a-kind individually offered horns will be available in the horn section on our website. If your ideal horn is not offered on our website, give us a call, and we will be glad to work with you on a made-to-order horn of your own design.

All of our horns are American made, hand crafted the traditional way. Raw cow horns are imported from South America. Most are white with a wide array of tip colors ranging from black to honey colored. For a small fee, horns may be hand picked for scrimshaw quality. Buffalo (American bison) horns come to us from ranches in Montana and the Dakotas. The wood used on the base plug is myrtle, hickory, oak, maple, or walnut, depending on our stock at the time. The wood stopper is hand lathed from an oak hardwood dowel; all horns come with an oil tanned leather lace or thong strap. All of our traditional horns have a staple to attach the strap; the hunter horn comes with a removable brass bushing.

Carrying the Pouch and Horn:

I prefer carrying my pouch and horn as a unit, so I attach my horn carrying strap to the bag strap, and they never get separated.

Whether to wear the bag and the horn on the right side or the left side is another topic of debate. I am right handed and I shoot right handed. I carry my shooting bag and powder horn on my left side for the following reasons:

  • The bag and horn are out of the way for carrying the rifle with my dominant and stronger right hand.
  • Safety, the powder container is far removed from the sparks created during ignition of the rifle.
  • When carrying the rifle on the shoulder, the strap provides an itty-bitty extra buffer. After a long day's walk with a heavy rifle, anything helps.

The standard for October Country Shooting Bags is to be worn over the right shoulder against the left hip with the strap adjustment on the back. Right side carry is available at no extra cost. A Bonus for You.

Summary

We believe that October Country Shooting Bags and Powder Horns are the finest commercial grade products of their kind on the market. The materials used are the finest available. The people who make our bags and horns have a dedication to quality that comes from a time before mediocre was acceptable and built-in obsolescence was the norm. We guarantee your complete satisfaction with our bags and horns. Interestingly enough, out of all the thousands of items we have made over the last twenty-five plus years, the warranty replacements can literally be counted on fewer than the fingers of one hand. Our products are not inexpensive, but they are worth the money. You are investing in heirlooms with October Country.